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— Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

Right around lunchtime on Friday, gaggles of teenagers were making their usual transit from the Avalon Mall back to Leary’s Brook Junior High in St. John’s.

They were kids at that unusually self-conscious, almost awkward stage, the age when the word “kid” actually makes the most sense, some walking across the crosswalk, others running to get onto the street before the light changed.

At least two didn’t make it, and while they were left standing there waiting, a taller girl let her fingers slip open almost as if by accident, dropping her empty plastic drink cup and its angular straw onto the grass at the edge of the parking lot, not even caring that people were sitting in their cars at the light, watching the trash fall.

On the trail at Topsail Beach, there was brand-new trash — empty beer cases of still fresh and barely dampened cardboard. In another spot on the same trail, today’s Tim Hortons coffee cup, extra-large with two teabags still inside, one Chai tea, the other green tea.

All along the trail, tightly knotted dark green plastic bags show where people have been diligent enough to clean up after their pets, but not, apparently,  themselves.

Meanwhile, down on the beach, someone’s armchair is slowly decomposing into rust and foam — you can see it in the photo to the right.

There’s also a lovely pile of ochre carpeting unspooling into random fibres all across the tideline, just in case you’re not satisfied with the simple natural wonder of urchin shells, seaweed and the delicate broken spirals of what used to be the outside shells of whelks.

Clearly, you can’t force people to clean up their trash.

You can’t even make them think enough of this place to carry it as far as the next trash can.

In case you were thinking that we were making headway, there are still those among us, young and old alike, who seem willing to treat the outdoors as their personal dump.

And that’s a real shame.

It’s also something that has been written about plenty of times on this page and in this space. There are regularly letters to the editor about the mess — there was one on Saturday — just as there will certainly be more trash.

We live in a wonderful part of the world, surrounded by a harsh kind of natural beauty that entrances our guests, astounds and rivets photographers and which is viewed by an awfully large proportion of our population as the perfect setting for discarded cups and chip bags.

Words fail.

Put it this way: there are people who enjoy vandalizing cars.

There are those who have to scratch their names or comments into the paint on toilet stalls.

And there are those who think they have a right to take what belongs to all of us and trash it, simply out of laziness — because they can’t be bothered to walk 30 more steps with something in their hands or in their car.

It is its own particular tragedy.

Organizations: Tim Hortons

Geographic location: Topsail Beach

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Recent comments

  • Gena
    May 07, 2013 - 15:25

    Having just returned from a business trip to Sweden, I was astounded how far off the mark we as Canadians are in how we take care of our communties. I looked hard and saw very little if any litter despite the fact that there weather (cold and sometimes windy) is alot like we see here in NL and the rest of Canada. What will it take before we stop these practices that reflect so badly on us?

  • Ken Collis
    May 07, 2013 - 10:34

    Right now I'm in Kongsberg, Norway with my wife. We noticed right away how free of litter the town is. It was so evident that we had a conservation about it. How very different the people here must be, we said. There is lots of evidence of kids using spray paint but no trash. After being here a few days we have discovered that the people aren't so different than folks home. The place is clean because workers clean everything up. These little street sweepers go around all the time too. Businesses have employees go around the property keeping it clean. I know that this would be a big undertaking at home but I bet that after the initial clean up it wouldn't be so hard to maintain.

  • sc
    May 07, 2013 - 10:33

    The amount of garbage strewn along highways, roads, paths, in parking lots, and in front of people's yards and businesses is a disgrace and says a great deal about what residents think of this province and the environment. My wife and I have frequently remarked upon the unwillingness/laziness of business owners who allow garbage and cigarette butts to accumulate immediately in front of their stores and restaurants. In other coutries we have visited and lived in these owners would take pride in their properties and ensure that they look presentable. Unfortunately, most people here are too lazy to do so and simply feel it is someone else's responsibility to clean up after them. Why would tourists want to visit a place that is allowed to look like a city dump?

  • Tony Rockel
    May 07, 2013 - 09:52

    Makes for quite a contrast with those lush beautiful TV ads for Newfoundland and Labrador, doesn't it? Why aren't kids taught anything about civic pride? What are their parents and teachers thinking? At this rate we will soon be stifling in our own garbage.

  • mainlander
    May 07, 2013 - 09:33

    People have no respect for where they live. If they did, they wouldn't turn it into a pigsty.

  • Ed Power
    May 07, 2013 - 07:36

    "We have met the enemy and he is us", as the late cartoonist Walt Kelly accurately observed. This time last year I walked from Merchant Drive in Mount Pearl to Legion Road in CBS. The amount of garbage in the ditches and caught inside the treelines was staggering. Plastic bags, long strips of plastic industrial wrap and cardboard dunnage material, bottles, cans, bags of garbage, a sofa, an end table, a coffee table, kitchen chairs (of varying styles), tires, tire rims, tires and rims, bumpers, fenders, a car door, coil springs, leaf springs, a rear differential and thousands upon thousands of discarded fast food containers, cardboard Tim Hortons cups and waxy soft drink containers from every fast food franchise on the NE Avalon. A short detour down a carpath between the CBS highway and the new industrial park on MacNaughton Blvd revaled multiple piles of household garbage, broken furniture, old building material, appliances and other waste - including decaying moose carcasses. It's enough to make one weep. I've lived in four provinces - and two other countries - and visited a number of countries on three continents, and only in the most politically corrupt and poverty stricken countries have I seen such casual disregard - and outright neglect - for the environment. What is our excuse?

  • Steve
    May 07, 2013 - 07:36

    There is a disconnect in some people's minds these days about where litter comes from and whose responsibility it is to clean it up. I was working as the town manager of a small town some years ago and so it was on my plate to keep an eye on the litter around. As I drove through town with my sister one afternoon, she opened the window and tossed a handful of litter out the window. I was floored. I reprimanded her angrily and reminded her that it was my responsibility to have that picked up by town staff. She just didn't understand. Her excuse was, "I didn't want it in the car."

  • paulSt.John's
    May 07, 2013 - 07:15

    I have been to several gas stations on the Avalon recently with overflowing garbage cans and litter everywhere. It seems many business people simply do not care what their establishment looks like, people still have to buy gas, so what does it matter if garbage is blowing out of the overfilled garbage cans? What's so difficult about a daily cleanup of the property and regular emptying of garbage containers?